HASH(0xb3fa1c)

Ex-adviser’s tenuous ties to Trump campaign draw scrutiny

Ex-adviser's tenuous ties to Trump campaign draw scrutiny

WASHINGTON — For months, President Donald Trump and his advisers have tried to distance themselves from Carter Page, a little-known investment banker who briefly served as a foreign policy adviser on the Republican’s presidential campaign.

This week, Page — who is at the centre of the swirling controversy over Trump associates’ connections to Russia — painted himself as a recurrent visitor to Trump Tower, the New York skyscraper that housed Trump’s campaign offices.

“I have frequently dined in Trump Grill, had lunch in Trump Café, had coffee meetings in the Starbucks at Trump Tower, attended events and spent many hours in campaign headquarters on the fifth floor last year,” Page wrote in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s hacking of Democratic groups and possible campaign contacts with Moscow.

Page tied his presence in Trump Tower to the president’s unverified assertion the President Barack Obama had the building wiretapped, though Page provided no evidence to back up that assertion.

Page’s comments were the latest wrinkle in the swirling controversy surrounding Trump associates’ connections to Russia. The New York Times has reported that Page is among the Trump associates whose potential contacts with Russia are being investigated by the FBI. Congressional committees probing Russia’s hacking during the election and Trump campaign ties have asked Page to preserve materials related to their investigations.

Trump’s White House and campaign advisers dismiss Page as an inconsequential figure who has never met the president. He wasn’t on the campaign payroll and severed ties with the Trump team before the election.

Still, Page’s connection to the campaign, however tenuous, has boosted his public persona. In July, he was invited to speak at the graduation ceremony at Moscow’s New Economic School, a role often filled by prominent international politicians, including President Barack Obama in 2009.

Page’s appearance at the Russian university immediately raised eyebrows.

For an adviser to an American presidential hopeful speaking overseas, his message was strikingly critical of the U.S. It came as Trump’s calls for warmer relations with the Kremlin were a source of criticism from Democrats and alarm from some fellow Republicans.

Washington had a “hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change” in its dealings with Russia, Page said at the school.

Page and former Trump campaign officials say he made the trip in a personal capacity and not as a representative of the campaign. But university officials have been clear that Page’s connections and insight into the Trump campaign were the draw.

“We were interested in what was going on — already then, Trump’s candidacy raised eyebrows, and everyone was really curious,” said Shlomo Weber, the academic director at the New Economic School, in an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda radio station.

A newsletter announcing Page’s visit read, “You are invited to a lecture by Carter Page, foreign policy adviser for Donald Trump’s election campaign.”

Page has said he asked for, and received, permission from the Trump campaign to appear in a personal capacity.

Page has offered contradictory answers about his contacts with Russian officials during his visit. On Thursday, he told The Associated Press he did not meet with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, who also spoke at the graduation. But in September, he told The Washington Post that he did speak with Dvorkovich briefly.

Back in the U.S. a few days later, Page talked with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. at an event on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke with the Russian envoy at the same event, a conversation he failed to reveal when asked about contacts with Russians during his Senate confirmation hearings.

Page, a former Merrill Lynch investment banker who worked out of its Moscow office for three years, now runs Global Energy Capital, a firm focused on energy sectors in emerging markets. According to the company’s website, he has advised on transactions for Gazprom and RAO UES, a pair of Russian entities.

In December, Page returned to Moscow, where he noted he had “the opportunity to meet with an executive from Rosneft,” the Russian oil giant, according to a video clip of his remarks posted on YouTube. Rosnet’s chairman, Igor Sechin, a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been targeted by U.S. sanctions, though Page says he was not referring to Sechin in his remarks.

Some of the suspicion surrounding Page stems from the fact that no one who worked for the campaign can quite explain how he ended up on Trump’s list of foreign policy advisers. Page has also sidestepped those questions, saying he doesn’t want to put others “in the same damaged pot as myself.”

One campaign official said Page was recruited by Sam Clovis, an Iowa Republican operative who ran the Trump campaign’s policy shop and is now a senior adviser at the Agriculture Department. Clovis did not respond to messages from the AP.

Trump has distanced himself from Page, saying he never met him. Those who served on the campaign’s foreign policy advisory committee also said they had limited contact with Page.

“Only met him once very briefly,” said George Papadopoulos, the director of the Center for International Energy and Natural Resources Law and Security in London.

Page stopped advising the campaign sometime around the end of summer, though the exact circumstances of the separation are unclear. After the campaign, Trump’s lawyers sent Page at least two cease-and-desist letters, according to another campaign official, who like others, insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

___

Associated Press writers Jim Heintz in Moscow and Maria Danilova in Washington contributed to this report.

___

Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

Julie Pace, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Kelowna community bike ride raises $120,000 for charity

Money from the Payton & Dillon Budd Memorial Ride went to the Canadian Mental Health Association

More road closures planned due to construction in Kelowna

Hart Road and Grantham Road in Kelowna will be closed beginning Thursday

Okanagan College culinary students experience local Indigenous flavours

Traditional Okanagan-Syilx styles were taught by Westbank First Nation Elders

Multi-Generational Activity Centre is officially underway in Lake Country

Federal government provides an extra $585k to support the project

Kelowna’s homeless population doesn’t have much hope of finding a bed at a shelter

Central Okanagan Journey Home Society says 300 people waitlisted for supportive housing

VIDEO: Driver doing laps in busy Vancouver intersections nets charges

Toyota Camry spotted doing laps in intersection, driving towards pedestrians

Surrey B.C. mayor says the RCMP has announced it will unionize

A spokeswoman for RCMP headquarters in Ottawa says it’s not yet a done deal

Penticton baby suffers injuries from fall

Emergency crews responded to a report of a fall at a residence at 4 p.m. on June 26

Explicit sex-ed guide for adults mistakenly given to Creston elementary students

The booklet clearly states online and inside that the guide contains sexually explicit information

Driver has $240K McLaren impounded minutes after buying it in West Vancouver

Officers clocked the car travelling at 160 km/h along Highway 1 in a 90 km/h zone

Public tip leads to seizure of drugs and weapons in North Okanagan

Concerned citizen spots male sleeping in car in residential area

Still months of investigation left into South Okanagan murders

Penticton came to a standstill on April 15, when John Brittain allegedly shot and killed four people

Former Vernon Judo coach pleads guilty to child pornography charges

Bryan Jeffrey McLachlan is set to return to court Sept. 4 for sentencing

B.C. Olympic skier sues Alpine Canada after coach’s sex offences

Bertrand Charest was convicted in 2017 on 37 charges

Most Read